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Rural buildings in Kashmir are generally made by the people for their own use without the help of architects. The various forms of construction have evolved over time with the input of each generation of artisans. Traditional rural buildings use locally available materials and skills.

Rural buildings constructed in a traditional way by the people (often referred to as vernacular buildings) become an integral part of the local cultural heritage. These buildings often reflect the strength of the community to house itself independent of any outside intervention. They are a manifestation of architectural systems optimized over time for a particular context with regard to climate, soil or the threat of natural disasters. Constructed from local materials with local skills and a deep understanding of local social and economic constraints, traditional architecture is in many aspects sustainable architecture.

Traditional architecture in many places continues to evolve, and Kashmiri rural architecture is no

exception. A number of building systems in various parts of Kashmir have developed over time to accommodate local natural and cultural factors, including the impact of earthquakes. These systems are not only part of the cultural heritage of Kashmir but also add to its beautiful landscape.

Historically, the buildings have depended completely upon stone, mud, bricks and wood for roofing as well as walling. Until very recently, non-local materials did not represent a valid option for local constructions. They were expensive, and their use added logistical complications to the construction process. However, in recent times new materials have made their way into the valleys of Kashmir on account of their favorable economics as well as people’s aspiration to modernity.

Aspects of Rural Construction

Factors governing the popularity of construction methods and materials are (a) economics in relation to people’s spending capacity, (b) easy maintenance by the common person and (c) effective response to local natural conditions such as extreme cold, strong winds or high earthquake risk.

Economics

This is demonstrated most clearly by the use of brick for construction, which is most economical in the plains of the Kashmir Valley, and the use of stone, which is most economical in the hills, on account of their easy availability in the respective areas. The valley has soil that is most suitable to make bricks, baked or unbaked. The mountains, on the other hand, offer very little soil but have lots of stone and rock. When people in the hills consider switching from stone to

brick, these economic factors become very relevant.

Maintenance

Maintenance requires materials and skills. Since these are no different from what is required in
construction, the maintenance of rural structures is easy and within the reach of ordinary people.
However, if materials from outside the locality were to be used, the maintenance of the structure would become expensive.

Local Natural Conditions

Winter cold is the most common natural factor governing most of Kashmir. Thick walls of brick and stone with mud plaster provide excellent protection against this, as does a thick mud-timber roof. The lighter, pitched roof made of timber and CGI sheets in combination with the attic floor also ensures livable conditions inside the house in winter and summer. The steep pitch of the light roof permits little accumulation of snow and prevents any water leakages.

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07 March 2019
07 March 2019
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